Please wait a few moments while we process your request
Please wait...

Frances Dyson, And then it was now

Art and Technology

World Without Boundaries
E.A.T. meets Pepsi

“Some of Klüver’s art-world friends argued strongly against E.A.T.’s having anything to do with Pepsi-Cola, which they somehow seemed to regard as part of the military industrial complex. Klüver took the position that E.A.T. would simply be acting in an advisory capacity.”

In this statement, written in 1972, Calvin Tomkins gives a fairly cynical assessment of the corporate motives behind the Pavilion, suggesting that circumstance and confusion, rather than intention, played the greater part in determining Pepsi's sponsorship. In the themes that Pepsi adopted for its involvement in Expo 70 — the future site of the Pavilion — project art is not mentioned alongside the favoured keywords of “bigness, youth and community” — all aimed at increasing Pepsi’s share of the Japanese youth market. Indeed E.A.T. appears belatedly in the official publicity. Tomkins notes that Pepsi’s public relations department (which had absolutely no idea what the eventual project would look like and was therefore at a loss in naming the Pavilion) considered using the word “Sensosphere” — until it realized that, in Japanese, “senso” means “war.” (1)

While the collaboration between E.A.T. and Pepsi-Cola was beset with funding problems from the start, intellectual property and equipment ownership issues were what actually led to the Pavilion’s final transformation from an artist-run project into something more “user friendly,” run ultimately by Pepsi. When questions were raised about funding for Pavilion’s operating budget for the duration of the fair, and about the ownership of tapes, ideas and software once Expo closed, the relationship between E.A.T. and Pepsi essentially went into meltdown. The artists left for New York on April 25, after removing some of the programming tapes. Alan Pottasch, then President of PepsiCo’s Japanese subsidiary, immediately filled the gap with tapes borrowed from a Japanese television station. “For the next few days, the Pavilion's 37 loudspeakers filled the Mirror Dome with band music and the theme song from ‘It's a Small World,’ Pepsi's offering at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair.” (2) This would later be incorporated into an exhibit in Japan's Disney World. Thus Whitman's desire to “get away from the Walt-Disney thing" was not to be realized. While Klüver and some of the artists felt that the dispute was due to aesthetic differences, Pottasch was far more pragmatic: the real issue, he said, was “the escalating costs of the project.”

Klüver pleaded with the then President of Pepsi, Donald M. Kendall, to have the entire Pavilion pronounced a work of art, thus ensuring artists intellectual property rights. However, receiving no response to his letter, Klüver instructed the artists to leave. The entire operation left E.A.T. in an enormous amount of debt, and thereby challenged its viability. Fortunately, Theodore Kheel bailed the organization out. Thus began E.A.T.’s long association with, and support from, Automation House.

Frances Dyson © 2006 FDL

(1) Barbara Rose, “Art as Experience, Environment, Process” in Pavilion, edited by Billy Klüver, Julie Martin and Barbara Rose (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1972), p. 8-9, 93. Calvin Tomkins, “Outside Art” in Pavilion, edited by Billy Klüver, Julie Martin and Barbara Rose (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1972), p. 134.

(2) Tomkins, ibid., p. 163.